The Care Factor, part 2

‘Ok here we go,’ I thought, as Learner Dad’s name flashed on to my phone.
I’d been waiting for this call.
“How did he go?” I asked nervously.
There was only silence.
And then a sniffle.
“Are you there? What happened?” I asked in a panic.
More silence.
Then… “I can’t do it.”
It was Lil Fatty’s first day at childcare and it seemed it wasn’t Lil Fatty who was struggling with it.
“What do you mean?” I whispered, glancing around the office and covering the phone slightly.
“He just doesn’t suspect a thing,” Learner Dad said between sniffles. “I feel so mean leaving him here.”
After weeks of debate, Lil Fatty was enrolled for one day a week of childcare.
Learner Dad didn’t like the idea one bit.
I liked it a lot.
For a start, I’d been ready to take on another day of work a week.
And secondly, Master Nine had loved childcare.
He’d learned more about sharing and hygiene than I’d ever taught him.
And it filled the arts and crafts component of parenting I had always lacked.
“Do you want me to come and walk him in with you?” I asked my husband. “I’m sure Nathan would understand.”
Nathan was my boss.
And Learner Dad’s.
There was no way he was going to let me tell Nathan he was crying in the car outside Lil Fatty’s childcare centre.
“No, no, I’ll do it,” he said.
And, to his credit, he did.
Two hours later we were called to collect an inconsolable Lil Fatty.
Both flat out at work, we picked him up and took turns looking after him at the office.
Over the following weeks, things barely improved.
Learner Dad had the ugly job of dropping Lil Fatty off.
I was the hero who picked him up.
Learner Dad would leave him waving tearfully at the window.
And I’d find him in the same place seven hours later.
Of course he didn’t spend the whole day at the window.
A large portion of it was spent on the toddler room couch, clutching a rainbow abacus and screaming at any kid who came near him.
And so, by the time I was heading off on maternity leave for Fairy Floss, I was under the assumption Lil Fatty would be taking a crèche sabbatical too.
But the tables had turned.
Learner Dad was starting to see social improvements in Lil Fatty.
He no longer cried when his daddy dropped him off.
He’d begun venturing outside to play.
And he was, of course, a big fan of the hot lunch.
“If we take him out, we’ll have to go through this all over again,” Learner Dad said, referring to my inevitable return to work.
“You shouldn’t put him through all this again,” Lil Fatty’s carers reiterated.
And so he stayed.
I doubt I’ll ever feel comfortable watching Lil Fatty and his dad roll out of the driveway on a Friday morning.
But he waves cheerfully to me now as he leaves and he no longer cries when he gets there.
And nor does Lil Fatty.

Care Factor part 1 was written prior to my return to work in 2013

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The care factor

“You mean she sends her kids to crèche even though she’s going to be at home all day?” a relative asked me recently.
I’d been talking about one of my friends, who was sending her toddler off to childcare a couple of days a week, even though she was at home with the baby.
Now I could have been talking about one of a dozen of my friends.
Because this is just the done thing.
Kids go to childcare even though they have a parent at home.
Is it right or wrong?
Well, for a start, is it really anyone else’s business?
I guess by putting it out there I’ve made it so, so let’s look at it.
Parents who send their kids to crèche all day every day while they go shopping or try to win big on the pokies?
That’s easy: wrong.
Mums who send their kids because they are tired and stressed with the new baby and simply can’t cope?
“Not in my day,” according to my relative. “If you’re going to be at home, why wouldn’t you look after your own child?”
But was there even a choice in her day?
How about parents who send their child to care because they feel he or she is becoming isolated and bored at home?
Many parents these days seem to enrol their kids in childcare because it has become less about babysitting and more about socialising and educating their children.
While, in the past, it might have been seen as a disadvantage for your little one to have to attend childcare, today many are seen as disadvantaged for NOT going.
Master Seven went to childcare for at least half a day a week from six-months-old.
It wasn’t a difficult decision – I really had no choice.
I’d been working as a freelance journalist and, when he was newborn, would either strap him to my chest or cart him in the capsule to each interview.
But, as time went on, the cute grins and sweet noises he’d charm the subjects with turned into screams and grunts to be put down so he could explore.
So, at six months old, off he went to care, for half a day a week.
I remember one Friday afternoon having all my work done within the first hour and deciding to use the rest of my free time seeing a movie.
I mentioned this to his carer when I went to pick him up and saw a dark cloud cross her eyes.
Was it the wrong thing to do?
He was only a baby after all.
As time went on, my little Master went more and more, varying from one to five days a week, depending on how much work I was getting at the time.
I wasn’t keen on enrolling him full-time and was lucky in my profession that I never had to.
Four centres and four years later, he graduated a well-adjusted, outgoing boy.
Was his behaviour influenced by childcare?
Undoubtedly.
He’d made little friends, tried new foods and picked up important social skills like sharing and packing up.
Because Master Seven started school well before Li’l Fatty came along, I haven’t had to worry about having time alone with the baby.
I’ve got it, six hours a day, five days a week, guilt-free and free of charge.
But would I have sent Master Seven to childcare if he’d actually been a toddler rather than a big kid when Li’l Fatty came along?
It’s hard to say.
On the one hand, I have the easiest baby ever (how else would I be able to write this blog?) so I’m not really sure I’d need to.
But, on the other, those few hours after school when I’m home with both boys… well, let’s just say I listen very intently for the sound of Learner Dad’s car in the driveway.
Will Li’l Fatty go to childcare?
With the end of maternity leave looming, it’s probably time for us to get his name on a waiting list.
There are two nannas with hands up to help out and Learner Dad has weekdays off, so it may not be necessary.
But then, if another Li’l Fatty were to come along, maybe we wouldn’t give it a second thought.